Dentist makes public health a monthly service
Laura Urueta settles into her second visit with Dr. Jonathan Kolon by pushing her chair back to a reclining position at Silver Creek Dental. She scheduled her appointment after she attended one of the monthly public health nights he schedules especially for the local Latino and "migrant worker" population.
He hasn’t advertised since he began offering the service in January. It’s all word of mouth, he says he’s found the Latino community to be especially tight-knit. Urueta works at a local café and found out through her boss about the monthly service. Others hear about the clinic through fliers Kolon hands to those who he has already treated.
Silver Creek’s public health day is held on the first Monday of every month from 5 to 7 p.m. and Kolon recommends patients come early. He encourages his patients to come in "family-style," he says. On a typical public health night he might see up to seven patients, often a father or mother and their children.
He hires translators especially for the evening to make sure patients understand what kind of treatment they require, and how they should care for their teeth.
"If I’m about to give someone a root canal, I want to make sure I tell them first. It’s inappropriate for a doctor not to inform someone what’s going on," he explains. "And a lot of what I do is help educate patients about how to care for their teeth What I like to say is ‘I don’t treat teeth, I treat people.’"
Like many who take advantage of the monthly service, Urueta does not have health insurance, she says. For her appointment, she will pay a fee based on a sliding scale, according to her income. According to Kolon, who has worked as a public health dentist in the past, the payment method is in keeping with similar programs. He has never had a patient walk out on a bill, he reports.
"This is a population that is very underserved and it seems to be the same in Chicago and Detroit and other cities They are very appreciative and it’s a pleasure to work with them," he says. "I do more deep cleanings on those Monday nights than I usually do in a week, and they rarely complain about pain, if ever."
Before moving to Utah, Kolon worked as a public health dentist in Winslow, Ariz., a town on the border of an Indian Reservation, he says, and has applied many of the lessons he learned from that experience into his practice at Silver Creek.
"I took that good feeling I felt in Winslow and said, ‘what can we do here?’ And I saw a really big need," he explained.
Kolon has participated in annual community dentist programs in the past, but notes that there’s an advantage to working out of his own office with a staff he’s accustomed to. It is also important to see patients again, especially if they need more than just a cleaning and not just yearly. Often, he finds patients who come on the first Monday of the month need to schedule a second appointment.
"My beef with other programs is that they aren’t year-round it’s really important to follow-up," he said. "I give my public health patients the same care I give any of my patients."
Silver Creek Dental is located at 6415 North Business Park Loop Road, Suite J. Regular business hours are Mondays and Fridays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments on Wednesdays and Saturdays are by appointment only. For more information, call (435) 658-0032.
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